Thomason v. Willingham, 43764.

Decision Date19 November 1968
Docket Number43764.
Citation118 Ga. App. 821,165 S.E.2d 865
PartiesTHOMASON et al. v. WILLINGHAM, Administratrix.
CourtGeorgia Court of Appeals

Fulcher, Fulcher, Hagler, Harper & Reed, J. Walker Harper, W. M. Fulcher, for appellants.

Franklin H. Pierce, for appellee.


Enumerations of error which are not argued in appellant's brief are deemed to have been abandoned.

1. A charge excepted to and enumerated as error was: "I charge you that a motorist has a right to follow another motorist at a reasonable and safe distance. However, he must govern his speed or keep back a reasonably safe distance so as to provide for the contingency of a car in front suddenly stopping, and he must keep a proper lookout for the car immediately preceding him so that he can avoid a collision, or can turn out sufficiently to pass without going across the street in the way of traffic approaching from the opposite direction, as that would result in a collision with such traffic."

The exception is that the charge places an absolute duty on the motorist to stop or be able to stop under any and all circumstances, when the true rule is that he is required to exercise ordinary care and drive his vehicle in the manner of an ordinarily prudent man.

The exception is meritorious. The charge places the duty on the motorist to drive "so that he can avoid a collision, or can turn out sufficiently to pass." Generally the exercise of ordinary care will enable him to do that, but whether there is a collision or whether he can turn out sufficiently to pass is not wholly dependent upon his actions. He may be unable to do either, even though he is in the exercise of ordinary care. Actions of other drivers, road hazards and other matters may intervene and bring about a collision with the car ahead or with another vehicle, when the defendant is without fault, or only partly at fault.

Neither Code Ann. § 68-1641 nor § 68-1626 "nor any other provision of law of which we are aware, places an absolute duty on any driver to avoid a collision. All the circumstances and conditions at the time and place, including the conduct of other drivers, must be taken into account." Flanigan v. Reville, 107 Ga. App. 382 (2) (130 SE2d 258). Accord: Davenport v. Robinson, 109 Ga. App. 753 (137 SE2d 380); Attaway v. Morris, 110 Ga. App. 873 (5) (140 SE2d 214). The Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways (Ga. L. 1953, Nov. Sess., p. 556, et seq.), as amended, "imposes certain statutory duties upon drivers of automobiles, with reference to persons and property using the highway in the ordinary course of travel. These are cumulative, and do not destroy the common law duties of drivers of automobiles relatively to persons and property using the highway. The duty at common law of a driver of an automobile, relatively to persons and property on the highway, is to exercise ordinary care to avoid injuring them. . . `The standard of ordinary and reasonable care is invariable, such care being that of every prudent man. . . But the care of a prudent man varies according to the circumstances, dependent upon the degree of danger.'" Giles v. Voiles, 144 Ga. 853 (1) (88 SE 207).

In Giles the Supreme Court dealt with a charge that "The degree of diligence which must be exercised in a particular exigency is such as is necessary to prevent injuring others," which was held to have been too broad in its requirement, just as we find to be the case here. The court had also charged (as had been held in Denson v. Ga. R. & Elec. Co., 135 Ga. 132 (68 SE 1113)) that "A power company in furnishing electricity to patrons, with respect to employees of the latter rightfully upon the premises of the patron and likely to come into contact with wires carrying the current supplied, is bound to use ordinary care, which demands that the power company shall use such diligence in preventing injuries to such employees as is commensurate with the danger involved in the use and control of such a subtile and deadly agency as electricity," and this the court disapproved, asserting that "The excerpt from the charge excepted to purported to state the rule of care which the law exacted of the defendant, but in doing so stated the rule too strongly against the defendant . . . the court informed the jury that the defendant was bound to a degree of diligence which would prevent injury to the plaintiff. This, in effect, imposed upon the defendant the duty of observing the diligence required of an insurer, and eliminated all such questions as accident,...

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13 cases
  • Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Co. v. Jones, COCA-COLA
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • June 18, 1975
    ...the cars in front of him and was therefore forced to quickly change lanes in order to avoid hitting the car ahead. Thomason v. Willingham, 118 Ga.App. 821, 823, 165 S.E.2d 865 involved an erroneous jury charge which placed 'an absolute duty on the motorist to stop or be able to stop under a......
  • Eberhart v. Morris Brown College
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • January 15, 1987 not competent to give what amounts to a medical opinion relative to his injuries or the effect thereof." Thomason v. Willingham, 118 Ga.App. 821(2), 165 S.E.2d 865 (1968). A lay plaintiff is " 'competent to testify to his feelings, pains and symptoms, as well as to all of the characteris......
  • Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Co. v. Jones
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • March 11, 1976
    ...that they 'more nearly fit the situation here than O'Neil v. Moore, 118 Ga.App. 424, 429, 164 S.E.2d 328, or Thomason v. Willingham, 118 Ga.App. 821, 822(1), 165 S.E.2d 865.' These cited cases, including the case at bar, indicate to us the decided trend in rear-end collision cases toward re......
  • Harper v. Plunkett
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • May 26, 1970
    ...Cassels Co., 34 Ga.App. 478, 130 S.E. 75; Green, Georgia Law of Evidence, § 238, p. 526.' To the same effect, see Thomason v. Willingham, 118 Ga.App. 821, 823, 165 S.E.2d 865. Further, the admission, under Code § 38-420, must be scanned with care, and as evidence, it is the duty of the jury......
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